Saturday, October 13, 2012

Palomas Peak (8,586 ft.)

RT: almost exactly 3.0 miles
Vert.: 550 ft.
Time: 52 min. up, 44 min. down
Participants: cftbq, trishapajean, cimarron

This peak is best known to rock climbers, as its west face features challenging cliff bands. But a walk-up trail also branches off from the climbers' trail and that's what we took. The TH is just a wide spot on NM 165 in between Placitas and the south end of 165, where it merges with NM 536, the road to the summit of Sandia Peak. There is room for five or six cars on the east side of the road at approximately 35.2265° N, 106.4095° W. Coming from the north (from Placitas), go past the Las Huertas picnic/parking area, through some tight turns in the road as it begins to rise more steeply, past the entrance to the Elk Ranch on the right, and finally to a sharp right turn at the end of a short, straight section of the road heading east. There are three concrete barrier sections on the outside of the turn. I've read that one must be careful to park completely off the roadway to avoid being ticketed (or even towed!), and the FS does indeed patrol this area: This is one of the few places where you can park without paying them a fee.
From the parking area, walk uphill on the east side of the road for a few yards to find the place where the trail drops away from the roadway. It's easy to see when you get there, but nearly invisible from a distance.
Once on the trail, there are no real route finding issues. The trail drops very slightly as it winds counter-clockwise around a north-facing basin and finally crosses a shallow drainage. Then it heads basically north as it begins to climb the south ridge of the peak. Partway up, there is a junction, marked by a tower-like rock cairn, where the rock climbers' trail takes off slightly down and to the left, while the hikers' trail goes up and to the right. The whole length of the trail is clear and easy to follow, and surprisingly easy on the feet—virtually no rough volcanic rock, nor much cactus to cope with. We were pleasantly surprised.
In due course, the trail levels out at the south end of the long summit ridge, and plentiful cairns mark the way, staying just to the east of the actual crest, to the high point at the north end. I found the actual high point to be located a bit north and east of the literature coordinates, but it seems obvious enough, visually.
Being so close to Albuquerque, this is a great little mountain, with good views to the east.


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